Fun Home: A Real Life Example of the Absurd Paradox of Death
Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home is a groundbreaking piece of literature in which an audience is able to experience an autobiographical piece unlike any other. Through the illustrations in this graphic novel as well as the utterly human words and concepts discussed by Bechdel, she is able to express her struggles with her family dynamic, her father’s secrecy, coming out, and living life as a woman and a lesbian. Throughout the piece, Bechdel covers many different themes and concepts, a few of which revolve around the typically heavy and touchy subject of death. However, when discussed by Bechdel, death is a routine sort of thing, something even to joke about. Bechdel and her peers even call the funeral home down the street where her grandmother and father work the “Fun Home”. Christian W. Schneider relates all of these ideas to their ties to the gothic themes presented in the “Fun Home itself throughout the graphic novel in the article “Young Daughter, Old Artificer: Constructing the Gothic Fun Home”. To Bechdel, death is an absurd concept much like life when described by Camus as well as simply just an absolutely ridiculous concept and therefore something not to be afraid of or to hold as a taboo of conversation, but rather something to discuss or even joke about from time to time.
Bechdel spent her childhood and young adulthood discussing death as a joke (especially since her father was an undertaker), “visiting gravediggers, joking with burial vault salesmen, and teasing [her] brothers with crushed vials of smell salts” as a routine part of life (50). However, upon losing her own father, she finds that exact mindset is what has set her up to be so unable to grasp the reality of her own father’s death, trying to still sort of be light and funny about it by comforting herself with questions like “who embalms the undertaker when he dies?” (51), but finding herself nothing more than irritated at his passing. It is here that the true absurdity of death is depicted- what is more absurd and ridiculous and senseless than a thing which is most incomprehensible to those closest to it in their daily lives?
Alison’s irritation makes her experience all the more human and absurd. As discussed in Christian Schneider’s article, she spends her life “trying to escape the secrets and lies that finally prove to be her father’s death, as their power over her life still remains” (7). Alison proves to be absurd in her self, where the more she tries to escape the effect of her father’s death on her life, the more power the death has on her life. This paradox is as ridiculous as the aforementioned paradox of exposure to death causing more confusion when actually faced with it. In all reality, the absurdity of death is all based in the utter paradox of it.
Bechdel, even when conflicted about her own father’s death, handles death very well because she does understand that it is absurd. She does not only consider that “death is inherently absurd… in the sense of ridiculous [and] unreasonable”, but she also considers death as absurd “through Camus’ definition of the absurd—that the universe is irrational and human life meaningless” (47). In this definition of absurd (as displayed in the Absurdist school of thought which extends into existentialism and nihilism), one can see the simple tie of Bechdel’s thought on life to her thoughts on death. Bechdel never demonstrates a need or seeking or belief in an innate purpose and sees life as absurd and lacking logic, especially when she learns the secrets of her family. Therefore, it is very reasonable that she views death the same way- as meaningless and irrational.
The two concepts of “absurd” of course tie together, as if life and death are ridiculous and silly, they’re bound to lack logic or meaning and vice versa. So while Bechdel makes a point of separating the two sort of definitions of absurd, it is apparent that if one definition of absurd is observed, than the other will almost always be observed either as a supplement or as a result. It is evident that Bechdel’s exposure to death at such a young age is what gave her this absurd view on death and inevitably caused her struggle with her father’s passing. When death is truly examined for what it is, however, it can be viewed as nothing but absurd. It is a senseless, irrational, ridiculous, concept and perhaps one of life’s few concepts that can never be grasped while in this life. Life and death do not exist for any innate purpose, they just kind of happen coincidentally, without logic or purpose, so why not just accept them and enjoy the utter ridiculousness of the pointless existence of humans?
Bechdel, Alison. Fun Home. New York. Houghton Mifflin Co., 2006. Print.
Schneider, Christian W. “Young Daughter, Old Artificer: Constructing the Gothic Fun Home”. Studies in Comics. 1.2 (2010): 337+. Web.
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Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home is a groundbreaking piece of literature in which an audience is able to experience an autobiographical piece unlike any other. Through the illustrations in this graphic […]